"Other than human forces" : Virginia Woolf’s moments of posthumanist being




Senzaki, Sierra Miyone

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How are we affected by “other than human forces”? Drawing on ecocriticism, posthumanism, and New Materialism, I ask what new understandings of Virginia Woolf become visible when we allow ourselves to blend together humanist knowledge categories such as “nature” and “culture” and attend to sensation and emotion. This project grounds itself in Woolf’s descriptions of interactions between the human and nonhuman in “A Sketch of the Past,” tracing the two types of interactions that emerge: posthumanist moments of being, which are vivid encounters between the fleshy self and its material surroundings, and humanist moments of non-being, in which the human utilizes the nonhuman as a tool to subdue emotion. Woolf’s theorization of these moments – read with an emphasis on embodied experience, the natural, and the presence or absence of division between the human and nonhuman – largely guides my own thinking. I then turn to an earlier novel, To the Lighthouse, in order to demonstrate that these interactions are not limited to “Sketch” or to Woolf’s own life. Rather, they reveal a dual sensibility towards the natural that pervades Woolf’s life and work. Ultimately, a posthumanist reading of Woolf illuminates how Woolf thinks carefully about human interactions with the natural and also allows us to refine our own thinking about the world in which we are enmeshed



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